The Uzbek Tigers were once again able to show their burgeoning WSB prowess on Saturday night as the new franchise repeated their impressive Quarter-Final first-leg performance in Russia with another 3-2 away win to take their place in the Semi-Finals. The 6-4 aggregate result sets up what could be the match of the season so far against a Cuba Domadores side that booked its place in the next round with a convincing win over Mexico Guerreros in Havana.
Saturday’s opening bout assumed huge importance with both sides looking to establish some precious momentum, and the responsabilitiy for the hosts fell to flyweight Viacheslav Tashkarakov, in for Karen Arutunian, against the Uzbek’s in-form AIBA Asia and Oceania Olympic Qualification Event winner Shakhobiddin Zoirov. The Tigers’ gifted 22-year-old boxed freely for a man making his WSB debut, using his greater speed to launch waves of counter-attacks that saw Zoirov win all five rounds against the Russian veteran and set the visitors on their way.
Two more debutants contested a short-lived lightweight bout as Uzbek Tigers’ Elnur Abduraimov dashed Dzhamal Badrutdinov’s hopes with a well-timed left at the end of the opening round from which he was unable to recover, the referee halting the match and putting the Tigers within touching distance of the semis.
Russian Boxing Team’s emerging welterweight star Albert Karibian was able to bring the hosts back into the tie as he edged a thrilling encounter against the highly respected Shakhram Giyasov. The powerful Uzbek made life uncomfortable for Karibian with some powerful right jabs in the first round, but the Russian remained on top to narrowly finish on the right side of the judges’ decision to make it 5-3 to the visitors on aggregate.
Russia’s Imam Khataev began his crucial light heavyweight class bout against Shukhrat Abdullayev with intent, only to see the Uzbek force his way back into contention at the half-way stage. Khataev caught his opponent in the third and, despite tiring badly, gave his side the chance of a memorable comeback as he closed the gap to just a point with one bout to go.
As the home crowd rose to the occasion, experienced Uzbek Mirzohidjon Abdullaev stepped up to quash any dreams of their team forcing a dramatic box-off with a comprehensive display against Andrey Afonin. Abdullaev reduced the fighting distance successfully in the opening minutes to take a lead that he refused to let slip, controlling the bout with timely jabs and taking a unanimous decision that saw the Uzbek Tigers safel through to a Semi-Final showdown against the mighty Cuba Domadores in their first-ever WSB campaign.